Balsa wood is well known for its lightweight, soft, and easy to work with. It is one of the ideal choices for making models. Balsa is the common name that called in centeral and south America in general. It is also called Corcho in Mexico, Gatillo in Nicaragua, Enea or Pung in Costa Rica, Lana in Panama, Pau de balsa in Brazil, Palo de balsa in Peru and Tami in Bolivia. So, when you hear other names, you know that they refer to balsa wood too.
Balsa wood belongs to Bombacaceae family. And it is widely distributed in America tropical forests, throughout the west Indies, and from south Mexico, through Central America and into Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Balsa trees are usually found at lower elevations, especially on bottom land soils along streams, also in clearings and cutover forests. Balsa wood cultivated in plantations.
Balsa tree grows very fast. The native balsa trees are 60 to 90 ft high and 2.5 to 4 ft in diameter. A balsa tree can reach 80ft high and 2.5 ft in diameter within 5 years if it lives in the best conditions with sufficient water and heat.
Balsa wood is well known for lightweight. It has no distinctive odor or taste. The color of the heartwood is pale brown or reddish, while sapwood is nearly white or oatmeal colored often with a yellowish or pinkish hue. It has coarse texture medium, straight grain, high luster, velvety feel and so forth. It is widely used in making models.
The weight of the ovendry and green balsa wood is different greatly. Commercial balsa usually between 0.10 to 0.17. Air-dry density about 8 to 14 pcf. Kiln-drying of converted stock preferable to air-drying to minimize splitting and warping. Kiln schedule T10-D4S is suggested for 4/4 stock and T8-D3S for 8/4. Shrinkage green to ovendry for 17 pcf air-dry material.
Balsa wood is very easy to work with sharp, thin-edged power or hand tools. And it is perishable, and vulnerable to dry-wood termite attack. It can be used for life belts, floats, core stock, toys, models, and so forth.